- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

NIGERIA
Twenty-two new parties allowed to register
LAGOS The electoral commission threw open the door to democratic politics this week, allowing 22 new parties to register for presidential, state and legislative elections to be held before May 29 next year the first organized by a civilian administration in more than 15 years.
Abel Guobadia, chairman of the commission, announced the ruling Tuesday, four weeks after the Supreme Court quashed the agency's tough party registration rules. The new parties still face the challenge of winning 5 percent of the vote in local polls before they can qualify for national elections, although they plan to challenge this in court.
"This development is healthy for democracy," said lawyer Gani Fawehinmi, whose National Conscience Party won the chance to get on the ballot.
"The outcome is also a lesson for Nigerians: You must fight doggedly for your rights," he added.

SUDAN
Rebel chief Garang visits Nuba Mountains
CAIRO Sudanese rebel leader John Garang is on an unprecedented visit to the Nuba Mountains, where a yearlong truce is in force between the Khartoum government and his Sudan People's Liberation Army.
SPLA spokesman Yasser Arman told Agence France-Presse that Col. Garang arrived in the area on Sunday aboard a private aircraft "without the authorization of the Khartoum government." He said it was Col. Garang's first visit to the Nuba Mountains since the civil war broke out between the Islamic government and southern-based Christian and animist rebels 16 years ago.
The mountains are away from the main war zone in the south, and a cease-fire was concluded for the region, home to a half-million people, in January. A Joint Military Commission with representatives of both sides, chaired by a Norwegian general, is monitoring the truce, which is seen as a test for negotiations under way in Kenya to end Sudan's civil war.

Weekly notes
Swaziland's King Mswati is facing a rising tide of protest amid signs that sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarchy may be tiring of his whims. In the past two months, the 34-year-old king has tried to buy a multimillion-dollar jet while his people starve and ordered a schoolgirl abducted to be his 10th wife. Now his country faces judicial collapse after top judges resigned and the High Court went on strike this week because the palace-appointed prime minister rejected a court ruling that challenged the king's power. Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell reported a new oil spill in Nigeria's Niger delta Tuesday as controversy continued over a leak in October that affected five villages and set off a dispute over compensation for polluted fisheries. In the latest spill, about 250 barrels of oil ran into swampland after a rupture in a 24-inch pipeline from Forcados to Warri refinery, Shell spokesman Tony Okonedo said. About 2,000 residents of Maroko village, near Effurun, were warned of the danger of fire.

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